What is Downview Prison Like
An Inside Look at HMP Downview: The UK’s Trailblazing Women’s Prison
Situated in Banstead, Surrey, HMP Downview serves as a closed women’s prison, holding both adult women and young female offenders. With a rich history and changing roles over the years, it has always aimed to be more than just a correctional facility. This article provides an in-depth look at life inside HMP Downview, its various features, history, and the programs it offers to its inmates.
A Brief History: From Male Prison to Women’s Facility
Originally opening its doors in 1979 as a Category C male prison, HMP Downview underwent a significant transformation in 2001 to become a women’s prison. However, the Ministry of Justice briefly considered converting it back into a men’s prison in 2013. Its current capacity stands at 358 inmates, including both convicted and remanded prisoners.
Interestingly, the prison was built on the site of Banstead Hospital, a former hospital for the mentally ill that was decommissioned due to the government’s ‘Care in the Community’ policy. The hospital was transformed into prison property, resulting in the establishment of both HMP Downview and HMP Highdown.
What is Downview Prison Like
A Pioneer in Rehabilitation Programs
In its early years, Downview garnered a well-deserved reputation for its innovative work in drug addiction treatment. As far back as 1992, the facility inaugurated the UK’s first intensive drug and alcohol rehabilitation program. Spearheaded by the Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners Trust (RAPT), the program even attracted the patronage of famed actor Anthony Hopkins.
Facilities and Accommodation: A Four-Wing Structure
HMP Downview is divided into four wings—A, B, C, and D—with D serving as the resettlement wing. Additionally, there is a separate Juvenile Unit. Each wing offers single-cell accommodations, all equipped with electrical facilities. Notably, approximately 50% of the prison population consists of foreign nationals, predominantly from Jamaica and Nigeria.
Educational and Vocational Programs: Preparing for the Outside World
In 2006, Downview launched the PRIME project, now known as The Media House. This award-winning media educational and broadcast facility allows prisoners to achieve a BTEC qualification upon completing a 16-week course. Moreover, the prison offers vocational training courses and NVQs to its inmates, and the resettlement wing even allows them opportunities to work and educate themselves outside the prison walls.
A Groundbreaking Initiative for Transgender Inmates
As of March 2019, HMP Downview became the first prison in the UK to dedicate a wing exclusively for transgender inmates. Initially hosting three prisoners with Gender Recognition Certificates, this trailblazing move emphasized the Ministry of Justice’s commitment to prisoner safety.
Past Controversies: Learning from Mistakes
While Downview has generally upheld its mission for rehabilitation and education, it has also had its share of controversies. One such incident led to the resignation of a chaplain in 2002, following allegations that he demanded sexual favors from inmates in exchange for communion wine.
Conclusion: An Evolving Institution with a Focus on Rehabilitation
HMP Downview has had an evolving role over the years, but its focus on rehabilitation and educational development has remained consistent. Whether you are looking to visit or simply want to understand more about this multifaceted institution, HMP Downview stands as a testament to progressive correctional practices in the UK.
For directions to HMP Downview, refer to the map on this page. Please note that as of April 1st, 2013, the operational capacity of the prison is 355.